I am receiving a Centrelink payment. What are my obligations? What happens if I fail to meet my obligations?
If you are receiving a social security payment, you need to be aware of your obligations. If you fail to meet these obligations, you can be charged with an offence in addition to having your payment cancelled. For this reason, it is important to ensure strict compliance with the requirements under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth).
It must be stressed that this information is not exhaustive and does not constitute legal advice. If you would like specific and detailed information regarding your obligations as a Centrelink recipient, you should seek our advice.
WHAT ARE MY OBLIGATIONS?
Your obligations as a welfare recipient include, but are not limited to:
- Informing Centrelink of changes in circumstance that may affect your payment. You must inform Centrelink of the change within 14 days of it occurring. It is important to note that this obligation exists even when a person is no longer receiving a social security payment.
- Compliance with notices requiring you to attend a Centrelink office, or otherwise contact Centrelink to provide information. This applies whether you have made a claim for a social security payment or are currently in receipt of a payment.
- Compliance with notices requiring you to inform Centrelink of changes in circumstance or provide a statement about a matter that might affect your payment. These notices are different than the notices outlined in point 2. It is important to note that this obligation also exists after the termination of the social security payment. If you fail to comply, it is an offence that can attract jail terms.
- Providing true and correct information to Centrelink. It is an offence to provide false or misleading information to Centrelink.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I FAIL TO MEET MY OBLIGATIONS?
The first possible consequence of failing to meet these obligations is having your Centrelink payment cancelled or suspended. This can occur if you fail to provide information when requested or if Centrelink is satisfied that a payment is incorrectly being made to a person.
Another possible consequence is being charged with a criminal offence under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) or the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). Offences under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) can include:
- Providing a false statement in connection with a claim/hardship request;
- Providing a false statement to deceive or affect the rate of social security payment;
- Making a false or misleading statement or presenting a false or misleading statement to an officer;
- Obtaining a payment that is not payable; and
- Obtaining a payment by means of impersonation or a fraudulent device.
The penalties for these offences can be severe and can include imprisonment and orders to repay Centrelink an amount equal to the overpayment.
Offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) can include:
- Obtaining a financial advantage by deception;
- General dishonesty (includes obtaining a gain, causing a loss and influencing a Commonwealth public official); and
- Obtaining a financial advantage.
These are extremely serious offences for which the penalties can be severe, including possible jail sentences. For this reason, it is important to obtain legal advice if you have been charged with one of these offences.
Seek Legal Advice
While this article is intended to provide you with a guide of the general principles that operate in Queensland, it is not to be considered legal advice and may not cover important aspects that apply to your individual circumstances. If you have concerns about your obligations as a Centrelink recipient, or have been charged with an offence in relation to Centrelink payments, you should seek our advice.
Article by Shelby Smith